She's Family

“I turned my back for one minute to wash these dishes and you all think it’s a great idea whatever you were doing!”

“I was helping James with a puzzle,” Ben answered slowly while making eye contact with his uncle.

“Uncle Caleb is helping me with my book report,” JT reported dutifully.

 “Just helping this time. I promise.”  Caleb had gotten in trouble with helping his nephew too much on his homework assignments.  JT never complained about needing help, while his younger brother had any adult in the near vicinity doing his homework.  This led to a poster board with an artistic rendering of James’s favorite things – dragons, dogs, and his family all done with acrylic paints, while the rest of the Kindergarten class had photography or mounted magazine pictures.  “Do you need some help?”

Juliet shook her head. “No, yes, no, I am almost finished. Everything’s done.”

Caleb eyed the pans on the stove.  “How about we set the table and you take a break? Freshen up?” He opened the cabinet that contained Miss Emma’s good china instead of using the everyday mismatched dishes used for most Sunday dinners. This dinner was different because Juliet’s mother, Katherine was visiting the farm, her last visit being when JT was born.   

Dean had worked on his honey-do list that Juliet made for him. It included revamping the farm as much as feasible, but he drew the line at repainting the entire house, much to Juliet’s dismay.  Ben and Caleb had been conscripted, and JT and James had been relegated to animal wrangling and minimal landscaping work of planting flowers.  However, Dean had been called away by an auto emergency of one of his client’s, and Sal was away for the weekend.

 “Are you saying I look awful?” She roughly combed a hand through her hair almost pulling out the elastic that was hanging onto a few tenacious strands. “I’ve been cooking all day for a meal you all are going to inhale in 2 seconds.”

“Can someone eat that fast?” James asked, finding no more interest in the puzzle. “Can I try?”

“No!” Came the reply from Juliet, Caleb and Ben.

“Where is Dean?  An auto emergency? What is he AAA?” Juliet finally pulled the offending hair elastic out of her hair. “Guardian issues I could understand, but a car?”

Ben cleared his throat. “Well, Mr. Finster’s wife is in the hospital and they have only one ride so he needs it on the road. . .”

Juliet responded to Ben’s explanation with a withering glance, proving the question had been rhetorical and no feedback was needed or was appreciated.

Ben was home for a short while after finals, he was savoring spending time with his family after a grueling semester at Cornell, but he wondered if he should have stayed in New York until after the visit with Juliet’s mother.  His father had intentionally forgotten to warn him so that he could have another ally in keeping Juliet calm.  “Why don’t we take the dogs on a walk?”  He gestured to his brothers.

JT shrugged his shoulders, putting the art supplies away in their box while James went to the door. The dogs had been banished to the barn as Juliet prepared the house for her mother’s visit.  James opened the door to see a car coming up the drive.  “Uncle Sam and Mary are here!”

Sam was only recently divorced. Lidia deciding quickly she could not hack motherhood and flying off to the Dominican Republic to make it official before heading to Europe to make a new life for herself. Juliet had thought it hasty, postpartum depression and that Lidia would regret her actions. Dean had said good riddance, no sympathy or quarter for someone who had hurt his brother deeply.

Toting Mary on one arm, a messenger bag across his body that held Mary’s supplies along with a paper bag in his other hand, Sam made it to the door quickly divested of his daughter by Caleb. He held out the paper bag to Juliet.  “Two bottles of wine as requested. You look like you could use some help.”

Juliet gripped the paper bag too tightly.  “Really? I do, do I?”

Caleb tsked, but made it sound like he was playing with Mary.  Sam caught on quickly that something was amiss. “Ah, no, you have it all under control. Thanks for having us.”

“Hi Uncle Sam,” JT greeted his uncle first with James waiting to be acknowledged too. Sam bent down to give the little boys a hug, but James wanted his immediate attention.  

“Uncle Sam, can you eat everything that Mommy’s made in 2 seconds?” 

“What?” Sam was taken aback by the odd question.

“The answer is no,” Caleb advised.  Obviously, this had already been discussed and James was trying to get a different answer so that he could get permission from some adult, any adult to try a stunt.

“No, Jimmy,” Sam parroted, thanking God that he had a girl instead of a boy. Of course Mary was only just mobile, but in Sam’s limited experience he didn’t think girls would be interested in the same thing as boys. 

“Juliet, nothing is going to go wrong in the five minutes it takes for you to get cleaned up.  There’s a stain on your shirt, and you want everything to be perfect for when your mom gets here.” Caleb tried again to get Juliet to take a break.

She must have finally seen the reasoning in Caleb’s words, starting to go up the stairs with the brown bag of wine still in her hands.

Sam called out to her before she got too far.  There was a bottle of Pinot Grigio in the bag. “Do you want to put the bottles in the refrigerator?”

Juliet looked down somewhat guiltily at the bag. For a fleeting thought she considered having a drink to steady her nerves.  The last time her mother had visited their home had been when JT was just home from the hospital.   She had not spent much time with any of the boys, contact limited to birthday cards, presents in the mail and the occasional Skype conversation.  With a sigh she handed Sam the bag.  “Thank you.”

There was silence until all were confident that Juliet was safely in her room with the door shut. In a hushed tone Caleb directed Ben into action.  “Call your father and find out where the hell he is.”

“What is going on?” Sam asked.  “I’ve never seen Juliet like this. She’s usually so laid back.”

“Juliet’s mother, the Katherine Beckins is coming.” Ben had his hand covering the mouthpiece of the phone.

Sam’s brow ruffled. “Why do I know that name?”

“Because of that book. . .” Caleb tried to prompt.

“What book?” Sam did not mean to be oblivious, but with so much going on in his life, he really had not kept up on his reading except for the current classes he was teaching, and could not remember Dean mentioning anything.

“I can’t talk about it.” Caleb pointed to JT and James.  “The one about Leonardo.”

“Dad said he is on his way, and that we just need to be on our best behavior or else Juliet will take it out on him. He said that goes double for Jimmy and you, Uncle Caleb. She’s writing another one, you know.” Ben’s eyebrows went up and down.  He had heard the conversation with Sam, too.  “This time about Michelangelo.”

“Grandma writes stories about Ninja Turtles?” James asked, and no one answered him except JT who started another topic of conversation.

“We have to call her Kiki,” JT explained, looking up the stairs at where his mother went.  “She doesn’t like Grandma.”

James mirrored his uncle with a furrowed brow. “But we call Grandma Esme and Grandma Hannah, Grandma?”

Sam on the other hand was still trying to figure out the book situation.  Caleb and Ben’s hints were lacking.

“You have a baby and your mind goes to mush.  Is this what they call mommy brain?” Caleb teased. “She’s here, pulling up.”

 “Who’s going to tell Juliet?” Ben asked, backing away from the staircase to show he was not volunteering. 

He did not have to as Juliet came running down the stairs.  “I leave for 5 minutes and you didn’t set the table.  All you did was talk like a bunch of women-“

“Dean’s a bad influence,” Caleb mumbled, shifting Mary to his other hip as she pulled the button on his shirt and tried to put it in her mouth.  “Your mom is coming down the drive. . .”

“Ben, get those dishes. You get the glasses, and JT, can you get the forks? Jimmy, want to fold the napkins,” Juliet ordered. Under her breath she mumbled something about training dogs.

“Dean is definitely a bad influence,” Caleb repeated as he maneuvered three glasses while holding Mary. Sam agreed as he and Ben managed the plates in a hurried fashion, finishing as they heard a car on the gravel.

“Give me Mary,” Juliet ordered.  “I need something to do with my hands.  Boys come here.” She proceeded to line them up in front of the door, and make sure they looked presentable.  She set Caleb and Sam behind them, gazing at the group as if she were a photographer about to take a family shot.  “Smile,” she said as she opened the door and stepped outside on the porch with her family with her family behind her.

“This doesn’t look awkward at all,” Ben commented, trying not to smirk and get glared at by Juliet. 

Katherine exited the hired car, a Louis Vuitton tote bag in her hand while the driver got her Louis Vuitton travel bag from the trunk.  Sunglasses hid her eyes as she glanced around the farm on her short walk to the house, seeming to sigh before offering a smile to her daughter. She stepped tentatively on the porch, and took the few steps to the door. “Driver, can you leave the bag on the steps and one of boys will retrieve it.”  The driver responded with a nod, and Juliet moved forward from the doorway, kissing her mother on each cheek, Mary uncomfortable with being placed in the middle.

“Dear lord, Juliet, another one?  You breed like a rabbit.” Katherine gave a sweeping glance to the brood standing behind her daughter. “At least this one is girl.”

“This is Sam’s daughter, Mom.” Juliet felt foolish and handed Sam back his daughter.

Katherine pointed to Sam. “Ah, yes, the tall one. She’s yours?  You must be hoping for average height.”

“Pardon me?” Both Sam and Mary looked at the new guest with mouth gaped open.  Mary drooled.

Ben came forward, kissing her once on each cheek, mimicking what Juliet had done. “Thank you so much for sending your book!”

“You read it.” Katherine took off her sunglasses. “Ben, the first one. You look different from your last picture. You looked smaller, and I thought you had Juliet father’s coloring. . .”

“Ben is Dean’s son-“Juliet tried to explain, but Katherine didn’t want to hear it.  “Well, there are so many of them.  It’s easy to get confused.” She moved on to JT and James. JT presented her with a scroll, which she opened, showing a drawn picture of the farm.  “Jimmy and I drew you a picture.”

“I did the dogs,” James added with pride.

“Lovely, did you get the books that Kiki sent you?” She cooed.

The boys did not have to answer as Dean came through the door, with the bag Katherine’s driver left. “Well, Katie we still have the copies you sent to us, and will show them to the kids when they are older.  I can just see how proud they will be when they find out grandma writes porn-“.” Dean refused to call Katherine by her full name or Kiki, choosing to annoy her by calling her Katie, though she did not protest.

“Literary erotica, Dean. Literary erotica.” She bristled.  “I invented the genre of using classic artists showing their passion.” She studied the boys for a moment. “Perhaps they are a bit young. . . ”

“She wrote that book!” Sam called out, finally figuring out what they were talking about.

“She sent me an autographed copy.” Caleb was practically giddy with excitement.

Juliet threw him a look, but plastered a smile on her face as she announced, “Let’s sit down for dinner.”

“Juliet, your grandmother sent you something. She insisted in fact.” Out of her tote bag she took out an odd shape wrapped in aluminum foil. “I don’t understand your fascination-“

Juliet’s smile got bigger and more natural as she opened the package.  “It’s Patty!” It was a sugar coated lamb cake; some of the sugar coating had chipped off in the travel. There was a pink bow wrapped around its neck, raisins for eyes and a candied cherry for a nose.  She set it in the center of the table.  “Grandma Hannah would make dozens of these during Easter time and give them away, and she always made a special one for me with a pink bow.”

“Well, you were always a girl who liked the simple things.” She glanced around the room. “Obviously.”

Caleb slipped in and hooked his arm around Katherine’s arm. “The seat next to me is available, but only if you tell me the truth.”

They slipped into their seats with the younger boys sitting towards the end of the table, which had been extended to accommodate everyone.

“You want to know if you are Leonardo.” She preened at Caleb’s attention.  “You were my inspirazione, as they say in Italia, Tesoro.” Katherine had lived in Italy for years.

“I knew it.” He pointed at Ben, evidently they had formed a mini book club while in New York and Caleb had insisted that he was Leonardo, convinced he’d left a lasting impression on Juliet’s mother from the few times he’d been in her presence.

“That’s something you should be proud of, right up there with Knight,” Dean said, but only his brother heard the comment and stifled a chuckle.  Dean slipped his hand into Juliet’s and gave it a squeeze as she brought a bowl to the table. “Take a seat, Sweetheart. I got this.” He proceeded to bring the rest of the food to the table.

“Oh, the children are sitting at the table with us.  How charming,” Katherine smiled at them.

“They will be on their best behavior,” Juliet warned her brood, thankful James had grown out of the burping habit he had acquired after starting school.   

“And we didn’t have any more room in the barn,” Dean quipped, setting a bowl of mashed potatoes on the table.

“So Kiki, I’ve heard that your next book is going to be about Michelangelo.” Ben was seated next to Caleb, and elbowed his uncle. “Who is your inspiration for that one? Because Grandpa Mac says I remind of him of Caleb when he was young-“

Caleb cut Ben off. “I don’t see it, and are you calling me old?”

“That’s because he looks like his father, the one who is going to disown him.” Dean pinned his son with a glare before pointing his fork at Caleb. “And you are old, Peter Pan.” Dean had grown up and had a family, while Caleb had transitioned to a seamless best buds relationship with Ben, which allowed him to carry on as if he were still in his twenties.

“What’s disown?” James asked, sitting next to Sam, across from Ben and JT. Mary was ensconced between Juliet and Sam.

“It means Ben’s in trouble and his uncle, too,” Sam explained.

Katherine evidently had the ability to ignore conversations that did not concern her.  She was lost in her depiction of Michelangelo. “I remember after Juliet had one of the boys I met a man with wonderful cheekbones, light colored hair. . .”

“Josh? Really?” Caleb sounded disappointed, but then his eyes lit up as an opportunity presented itself.

Juliet bit her lip so it was practically white before she spoke. “Mom, I don’t think that the Sawyers would appreciate it.”

Caleb shook his head. “Josh? He’d love it! He’s my brother, you know.  I’ll put him in touch with you.  Maybe he can do your PR work?”

“No, really,” Juliet interrupted Caleb’s brilliant idea.  “His wife, Carolyn and his mother, Esme, Caleb’s stepmother who he adores, would not like it at all.”

JT decided they were talking about a topic that he could have input on. “Max is my best friend and Uncle Joshua is his dad.” However no one was really paying attention to the boys, sitting at the end of the table.

Ignored, and left to entertain themselves, James garnered JT’s attention.  “JT, JT, the lamb is kinda creepy and has beady eyes.”

“They’re raisins,” JT answered.

James nodded his head. “I want to cut off its head.”

“I want to do that!” JT replied as the same thought had run through his mind, too.

“What?” Ben was partially listening, trying to intrude on Caleb’s conversation with Kiki.  The book had really helped him, and he wanted to pick up as many tips as possible, though so far the conversation had little to do with sex and more to do with mutual fawning.

“Can I?” JT asked his older brother.

“I don’t think that I’m the one you have to ask, but since I’m older, then I think I get to cut its head off.” Ben had to admit he relished the idea of chopping off the head of the lamb cake.

“I’m Mommy’s favorite so I’m going to do it.” James proclaimed with confidence.

“You’re her favorite? Since when?”  Ben tried to cast some doubt on his youngest brother’s status, although as the youngest he was spoiled.

“Because I am little.  He raised his hands up. “I win!”

Ben was not going to give up.  “No way, not this time, little man.”

“I want to bring it to school on a plate,” JT said, having contemplated the situation.

“That’s very John the Baptist of you,” Sam replied, being entertained by his nephew’s conversation, and ignoring Caleb’s preening.

“Who?” James and JT asked.

“Some Scholar is slacking.” Caleb replied with a smug grin. “Pastor Jim would be mortified.”

“I’ve been busy,” Sam said as Mary banged her hands on the tray of the high chair, scattering Cheerios everywhere.

“So who is cutting off the head?” Caleb asked, proving that he could keep his mind on more than one conversation.

“What?” Dean asked, seated at the head of the table.

“Mommy, can I cut the head off of the lamb? Please?” James flashed his puppy dog eyes at her, much like Sam had done when he was young.

Juliet looked horrified. “That’s not the way it is done.  You start from the other end.  It’s mean to cut the head off.”

“Be fun to use the katana. . .” Dean trailed off when he saw Juliet’s reaction. “Honey, it’s a cake.”

“It matters, Dean. It matters.”

Ahhh!” Katherine shrieked, pushing her chair away from the table. “Something licked me.”

Caleb popped his head under the table. “It’s d’Artagnan.” He looked at James. “Jimmy, you want to tell everyone about how you snuck him in?”

James shook his head. “No, but I bet d’Artagnan would like some lamb cake. Please, Mom?”

Katherine stood up, dusted herself off from head to toe and stepped away from the table. “Juliet, dogs in the house, really. Just like that time I found that rodent in your room.”

“Reginald was a Guinea pig.” Juliet defended her long ago pet that she had kept in secret for a whole year before her mother found out.

However, Katherine was not paying attention; she pulled the sleeve of her shirt up to reveal a watch on her wrist.  “Time does fly. The driver should be returning for me shortly.”

“You’re leaving? Now? You just got here!” Juliet stood up, trying to decide if she should retrieve the dessert she’d made from the refrigerator, detain her mother, or escort her out.

“I’m allergic to animals, you know that.”  She had placed her tote bag on the back of her chair. She pulled out a Chanel lipstick.

“And children,” Dean muttered, receiving a glare from Juliet and an answering whine from d’Artagnan who Ben had coaxed out of hiding with a biscuit and was now escorting out the door.

“Besides I have a book signing in Louisville in the morning. My fans expect me rested and radiant.” She put her lipstick on, even though she had barely eaten. 

“Josh lives in Louisville.”


“Take care of yourself, Juliet.  You should come have brunch with me after the signing.”

“I run a veterinary practice, Mother.  I have patients. . .” Juliet tried to explain.

“Then soon in Roma, mia bella. A change in scenery will work wonders on your skin tone.” Katherine kissed her daughter, and placed a hand on her chin, moving it from side to side in unsatisfied study. 

Juliet delicately removed her chin. “Come say goodbye to your gr..Kiki, boys.”

Katherine patted them on the head. “My next book will be dedicated to you boys.  Won’t you like that?”

“You really don’t have to do that-“Juliet did not want her sons connected to the type of books her mother wrote.

“I’m one of Juliet’s boys, too.” Ben came forward and kissed Katherine.

“Not after tonight,” Dean retorted.

“We’re going to be a ninja turtles!” James raised his hand towards his brother, JT for a high-five.

“Your driver should be here soon,” Caleb interjected. “Please, allow me to get your other bag.” He gave an exaggerated bow.

“It is the act of Leonardo to provide such a kindness to a woman.” Katherine led the way to the door, pausing to make sure she could see the light of the headlights heading toward the house.  She had tipped the driver extra so that he would be punctual. “Ciao!” Katherine was down the steps, with her tote bag on her shoulder.

 Caleb followed her out and gave a slow nod to Ben, proud he had garnered the erotic writer’s attention. “I’ll write down Josh’s personal cellphone number for you,” he called out as he followed Katherine out. Juliet shut the door behind him.

Dean was just about to say something, but Juliet put her hands up to stop any comment, then took a seat at the table.  She wrapped her hands around her head, letting her head drop to the table.

Caleb returned five minutes into the forced silence, planting his back against the door. “Finally, I am acknowledged and immortalized as a sex god.”

“What’s sex?” James asked. The adults in the room paid him no attention, drawn into JT’s dilemma.

“She didn’t take the picture.” He unrolled the scroll, holding it down with both hands so it didn’t roll back up.

Juliet picked herself up from the table.  Sam backed away with Mary in his arms, giving Juliet some space.  Juliet kissed the top of JT’s head, and picked up the picture. “Well, that’s okay because it is the best picture you boys have ever done and needs to be on the refrigerator.”

Their refrigerator was filled with other drawings, pictures and appointment reminders, but Juliet shuffled everything and attached the picture to the refrigerator door with magnets. She then stepped back and took a moment to admire it before turning around and speaking in a low tone. “I am going outside to let the dogs out, and while I’m there, you and you with the help of those two,” in succession she pointed to Caleb, Ben, then Dean and Sam,” are going to explain to my son why he will not be a ninja turtle!”

Juliet pivoted on her heel and walked out the door, slamming it shut behind her.

“But Kiki said I was going to be ninja turtle!”  James envisioned telling his classmates.

Ben knelt down to his youngest brother’s level. “Jimmy, just don’t tell anyone at school that you are going to be a ninja turtle. Kiki doesn’t write those kinds of books.”

“She writes grown up books, about girls,” Caleb added, knowing  James was not interested in anything girl related.  In fact the child wrinkled his nose in disgust.

JT did not have the same concern.  His focus was still on the lamb cake, abandoned as an impromptu centerpiece. “Can I cut the head off of the lamb now? I won’t take it to school.” He raised his hand, as if proving his oath on his Cub Scout honor.

“Deuce?” Caleb asked. Juliet had protested the decapitation, but the cake was meant to be eaten and he was hungry. 

Dean opened the door, looking at Juliet’s wake. He made a decision.

“Dad, where are you going?” Ben was leaning against the kitchen counter.

 “I am going to talk to Juliet because you all do not want me out in the cold sleeping on the couch.  And while I am out there, you three can clean up the kitchen.”

Sam had put Mary down by his feet where she was pulling herself up by using her father’s jean clad legs for leverage. “Does that include me? I brought the wine. . .”

Dean leveled a steady look at his brother that spoke volumes.

“Right.” Sam gave a curt nod.  “Mary and I will help.”

With his orders given, and two adults and one quasi adult in charge of his two children, he went to find Juliet who in times of turmoil took solace in and around the barn.  He could hear the excitement of the dogs inside the barn.  Juliet was giving the attention they had missed the whole day.

She looked up when Dean entered. “I am surrounded by men, Dean, even the animals—male! Carolyn was supposed to be my support, but nooo, Josie had to get sick. She wanted to send Joshua and Max.” Juliet snorted. “Can you imagine? More men and one my mother wants to feature in her next porn novel.”

“Literary erotica,” Dean corrected, hoping to rouse a smile from his partner.

She scowled, jabbing a finger towards the barn doors while proclaiming with a loud voice, “And I am going to tell Esme and Carolyn about what Caleb did, too!”

“Juliet, I don’t think he can hear you from out here.” Dean said as Aramis came to him to be patted. He obliged, allowing Juliet to vent.

However, Juliet was onto another topic.  She started pacing; the dogs indecisive on whether to follow or stay put, and looked to Dean for guidance.  “It was convenient for her. Convenient.”

“At least she came. . .” Dean started, trying to put a spin on Katherine’s visit.

Juliet stopped pacing and glared at Dean. “Can you just agree with me? Don’t defend her.”

“Alright.” Dean retreated.

Juliet roughly pushed her hair off her face, then interlocked her hands behind her neck. “I will always be a disappointment to her.  It doesn’t matter that I’m a doctor, a mom, and in a stable, happy relationship.”

“With an extremely good looking super hero,” Dean added, not hesitating in making up the distance between them, causing the dogs to get out of the way.

Juliet huffed, refusing to be cheered. “I didn’t turn out the way she wanted me to.”

“I think you turned out great.”

She gave him a watery smile and her voice lowered. “You have to say that.”

“Then ask the kids, or Caleb and Sam. They think you’re awesome.” Dean reached out and tucked a piece of stray hair from Juliet’s ponytail behind her ear. “And who is Katherine to judge anyway. The woman doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body.”

“I’m not so sure I’m mother of the year material either.” Juliet’s shoulders relaxed as she gazed up at him. “I yelled at the boys. Ben probably wants to head back to New York tonight. “

“You are a terrific mom.” He settled his hands on her arms. “You make me a better father. I couldn’t imagine who else I would do this with. You take care of your clients, our boys, and deal with The Brotherhood craziness, which in and of itself should earn you some kind of award. I won’t even mention what you endure with Sam and Caleb, mostly Caleb.”

“They can be a handful.” Juliet laughed, relaxing into him. “But Carolyn and Esme warned me what I was getting into from the beginning.”

“Still, you make it look easy.”

“It’s not easy.” Juliet glanced up at him. “But it’s worth it.”

Dean rubbed a hand over her back. He could not imagine what it was like for Juliet, not growing up in The Brotherhood to be placed in this position, plus constantly dealing with a household of men. 

“She’s my mom, Dean.” She breathed. “What does that say about me?” 

“For one, it says you can rise above the situation.”

“Not helping, Dean.” When Juliet’s frown returned, Dean pulled her tighter to him.   Juliet was not a person who required coddling, but she was sensitive about a few matters.

“I didn’t have my mom for long and my dad… I loved him, but I hope to God that I’m a better father.  They might have given me life, but it took me a long time to figure out that my parents don’t define me. My choices do, who I keep close in my life, does. I’m your family, Juliet. The boys, Mary, Carolyn, Josh, Caleb and Sammy, they’re the people who you should look to if you want to see a reflection of the woman I know, and love.”

 There was a stretch of silence until Juliet finally spoke, “Will you tell the boys not to cut off the head of the lamb cake?”

Dean snorted. “Sorry to tell you that your kids are contemplating decapitating the lamb cake as we speak, and probably working on Caleb to give them permission. If you’re lucky Sam saved it.” He gave her another squeeze.  “You ready to go back inside? You can have the night off, maybe take a bath with that stuff that makes the bathroom smell like flowers.”

She laughed.  Dean hated the smell of the bath salts, didn’t know why she couldn’t use Epson salts. “Are you looking to get lucky, Dean Winchester?”

“Sweetheart, I’m lucky every day,” he replied with a bob of his eyebrows. “Actually, I think we should stay out here a little longer, at least until the kitchen is cleaned.”

“Whatever will we do with ourselves?”

“I can think of a few things.”

By the time they returned back to the house, the boys had cleaned up the kitchen and were sitting at the table enjoying cookies and milk along with a trifle that Juliet had made. The lamb cake was intact on the table.

“You boys do good work.” Her children beamed at her, while Mary was gumming a cookie, held by her father, with relish.

Caleb cleared his throat. “It’s come to my attention that maybe I was a little excited about entertaining your mother… “

Fanboy,” Ben added, pretending to cough.

Caleb tapped the back of his oldest nephew’s head in response. “But, you are still my favorite in your family, Juliet. The most significant woman in my life, second only after Mary.”

“Brown noser,” Sam added this time, hiding what he was saying with a cough.

“I appreciate that vote of confidence and the semi-apology.  Besides, I know you can’t help yourself.” Juliet smiled at the Knight, patting his head like she did the boys after a scolding. “After all, even though Dean and I didn’t walk down the aisle, I promised to stick it out, for better or worse.”

“Meaning she understood completely who constituted the worse.” Dean punched his best friend in the arm as he came around to snatch Mary from Sam’s arms. “I’m lucky she didn’t hightail it out of here when she realized I came as a package deal, isn’t that right, Mary, Mary, quite contrary.” Dean pitched the little girl in the air, eliciting a squeal of delight as he caught her and repeated the process.

“Keep throwing her like that and you’re cleaning up any tossed cookies,” Sam said.

 Juliet shook her head. “On that note, I’m going to take a bath.”

“So, who did the deed?” Dean looked at his boys once Juliet was safely up the stairs, the bathroom door shut behind her.

“What deed?” They asked with innocent eyes all around.

Dean nudged the head of the lamb. It easily slid away from the rest of the lamb’s body, the thinner icing giving away at the neck. “I’ve seen a few decapitations in my day. You’re lucky Juliet didn’t notice Patty’s pink ribbon was missing. Who’s got it?”

Ben pulled the ribbon from his pocket and held it out to his father. “Caleb said I could.”

“Rat.” Caleb frowned at Dean’s oldest son.

“Ben used his new scalpel,” JT said solemnly.

“It was a clean kill,” James added, impressed with his older brother’s technique. “Patty didn’t feel a thing.”

The Guardian looked at his Knight. Caleb shrugged. “What? It was a great training exercise.”

Dean rolled his eyes, turning to Sam. “And where was your daddy when all this was going on, Mary?”

The baby extended her chubby arms to her father, her answer all coos and babbling. Sam took his daughter back. “I was washing the dishes, like I was told.”

“Now who’s the suck up?” Caleb muttered.

“I just signed on to bring the wine,” Sam lamented. “I brought the wine.”

“Good for you, Sammy.” Dean smirked at his brother. “It’s nice to know someone in this family has their priorities straight.”

“Can we watch TV now?” James asked, bored with the grown up talk.

“Only after all your homework is done.”

“I’ll help them finish up.” Ben grabbed the art supplies, obviously hoping to make up for his part in the lamb’s demise.

“Is Juliet alright?” Sam asked once the boys were out of earshot.

Dean grabbed a cookie and took the seat by Caleb. “Until the next time Kiki visits.”

Sam joined them, Mary curled on his lap. “She’s a piece of work.”

Despite his infatuation, Caleb agreed. “The woman makes Bobby Singer look maternal.”

Dean snorted. “Now there’s someone the great Katherine Beckins could base her next novel on. Wasn’t Donatello a bit out there?”

“Thanks for that visual.” Caleb put his cookie down. “I think I just threw up a little.”

“Maybe Juliet was adopted,” Sam theorized.

“Or raised by wolves,” Caleb grinned. “Sort of like us.”

Dean looked around the table, giving a slight nod. “Who cares, I’m just really glad she’s family.”